The American dream of independence and freedom through business ownership is dying, if not already dead for a myriad of Prozac-popping drones who long ago gave up on running their own business and joined the numbed rank and file; a stopgap on the way to unemployment, welfare or other entitlements. The only true job security these days is to work for the government itself. If you are considering this, seasoned policy wonks would say that you must check your moral and ethical world-view at the door, for you will soon discover that what government says on the outside is not what it does on the inside. Power in numbers is the unstated political mantra, and they are winning.
The death of small business is not for lack of will or desire to be viable, but from the massive burden government bureaucracy now places on their backs. It has been a slow burn—increasing business license fees one year, double-taxation the next—in sum the devastation bears greater resemblance to a major fire rather than a few spot burns.
Turn on the local news channel or read the newspaper anywhere in the country and you will be greeted with grim prognostications about how the government doesn’t have enough money to support basic services such as schools, health care, roads, museums, and libraries. The knee-jerk solution—albeit the only solution usually offered—is to raise taxes or risk losing the most important social services. This political extortion has become so commonplace, most people hardly register its despicable motivation. Those that understand feel helplessly oppressed. Pop another Xanax obtained through subsidized health care.
It has been said that you shouldn’t bite the hand that feeds you. Perhaps a big, dumb animal doesn’t know any better. Can an animal behave in deference to its character? Or is society doomed to accept that such bureaucratic constructs are beyond redemption. It’s easy to concede to predation when you aren’t the beast’s current victim. Even the most dedicated environmentalist will shout “kill the bear” if that bear is chewing his head off.
Did that mental imagry make you uneasy? If it did, there may yet be hope for society. The human capacity for compassion, comprehension and commensurate action is the attribute that could overcome all the other evils of mankind. The underpinning of understanding is the key and the most difficult level to attain. The question ever before us is: can we ever overcome the worst of humanity in order to manifest the best? Who these days will die trying?
Back to Business
Apathy has increased in step with the American standard of living. Nothing within our domestic borders seems worth fighting for, but we wave the flag with the spastic fervor of an epileptic in full seizure when we see an opportunity to displace our own guilt on other countries. American apathy has issued the government permission to gradually erode personal freedoms, especially those associated with conducting business. It is a big picture most Americans think they understand, but can’t really wrap their brains around. In the most simplistic sense, many economists use gardening as a metaphor: create a climate where your plants will flourish, providing you with the desired bountiful harvest. Let the surroundings become inhospitable, and your plants will die.
Government is the construct within which businesses grow (as well as the people who rely on them to prosper economically). If it is illegal to kill the garden of commerce, our government should be incarcerated for what it has done.
When new taxes are blocked, government finds other ways to raise the toll, such as changing the way taxes are measured, removing incentives, changing the rules. For example, the IRS requires businesses to pay them an estimate of what they will earn each quarter, irrespective of fluctuations the government controls. If a business (or self-employed individual) overpays, they get a refund—nothing more—while the government pockets the interest. But if a business doesn’t have the money to pay the estimated taxes, or accidentally makes a higher profit and owes more money, the business is assessed a penalty (fine) and charged interest on the money they don’t have.
Keep in mind that there are not one, but four levels of government doing these things. Remember the days in school when it felt like each teacher issued homework like theirs was the only class you were attending? It is far worse than that in business: they are all the same subject! You are basically being preemptively fined for the privilage of practically anything you do.
In recent years the states increased the number of permits required, each with an associated fee, as well as fees on all other licenses and procedural charges. This doesn’t seem alarming at first, but it adds up to billions in revenue Why is it that when the government holds surplus prepaid tax money, it isn’t obligated to the taxpayer for the same tribute it requires from the taxpayer holding money for the government?
There are hundreds of thousands of ridiculous and time-consuming sanctions against starting and maintaining businesses. If these sanctions occured suddenly, they would have raised alarm. But they’ve been added slowly, unnoticed while big stories like Janet Jackson’s nipple slip consumed the ever-shortening public attention span. With thousands of new rules and policies being created by elected officials at the federal, state, city, and county levels each year, it is far more than a full-time job to keep track of it all. So people don’t. Government wins by attrition.